What Are the Five Most Urgent Environmental Conflicts in India?

By Sunita Narain

Air pollution, waste management, climate change — a roster of environmental issues greet us every day in the news. But what are the five most urgent environmental conflicts plaguing India currently? What are the issues future environmentalists need to focus on?

Leading environmentalist Sunita Narain lays down the priorities.

1. Air Pollution

Every winter in Delhi brings with it noxious fumes and potent smog. Putting air pollution on the top of her list, Narain says that “there is no doubt that we’re facing a pandemic of bad air” which is “destroying our lungs and our respiratory systems.” Commenting on the adverse impact of the air pollution in India — not just in Delhi — Narain says that the toxic air is “making our children vulnerable and ill.”

Is there a long-term solution possible to the crisis of pollution?

“Yes,” Narain says. While current pollution levels are “unacceptable”, she is confident that the conflict of air pollution is one for which solutions can be collectively implemented.

2. Climate Change

Climate change. Two words which figure on the agenda list of every major superpower in the world, yet a conflict which is so large in its consequences, that a single solution would be ineffective. Commenting on the effect of climate change on the poor and vulnerable in the world, Narain says that our “capacity” to deal with the repercussions of climate change in India would be “critical.”

With every major city in India getting flooded with increasing frequency, Narain asserted that with the monsoon in India getting “more and more erratic”, it is vital that agriculture in India find other sustainable means of production.

3. Water and Waste

What does the water in your home contain? Where does it come from? More importantly, where does the waste water from your home go?

River pollution in a city is inextricably linked with waste management in our cities, with “rivers being polluted, because we flush and forget”, says Sunita Narain. The challenge is to ensure that clean water is accessible to all — irrespective of class and region — while waste is managed in a way which doesn’t pollute our rivers.

4. Lifestyle Diseases

What does the increasing incidences of diabetes, heart diseases and obesity among Indians indicate? Toxins in our foods and a unique situation wherein despite being a poor country, we are suffering “diseases of the rich,” says Sunita Narain. While lifestyle diseases can be easily dismissed as health issues, it is important to look at hypertension and respiratory diseases emanating from lifestyle choices, as an effect on the “human face of the environment, which is our body.”

5. Development Issues

How do we define sustainable development in 2017? Commenting on the dilemma between development and environment, Sunita Narain gives the example of tiger conservation.

How do we make sure that when we protect the tiger, the people associated with the forests also benefit from the conservation?

Whether it is ensuring that tribal communities get benefit from the trees they protect, in a nature-based economy, Narain says the challenge is to build livelihoods which are sustainable without any harm to the environment.

Source: The Quint

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